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An Intricate Look at the Delegation Cycle

written by: Sylvia Cochran • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 7/13/2011

Understand the art and science of handing off tasks while working with a freely downloadable diagram of delegating cycle steps. Adapt it to meet your company’s needs. Use it to increase productivity and ensure that no more tasks fall through the cracks.

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    Why bother?

    “Business semantics management The well defined project management life cycle begins with the project origination phase. From there it progresses through project initiation, project planning, execution, control and finally project closeout. The odd man out is the delegation cycle, which is fluid in its adaptation and takes root in the planning phase -- but transcends into execution and control phases as well. As such, it is not as clear-cut as the other aspects of a proper project management diagram.

    A literal-minded project manager may find it difficult to work within various phases of the project concurrently. Even if the manager is able to view the project from the planning and control angles concurrently, team leads may find it difficult to follow suit. This is where the delegation cycle diagram (free for download) comes in. Use the visual setup to sketch out the act of handing off tasks and processes, controlling the progress and ensuring completion within acceptable perimeters.

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    Delegation Cycle Intricacies

    The project manager is in charge of developing and fleshing out the delegation procedures that are germane to the company, the project at hand and also the way business is done in the industry. A basic cycle has three components:

    1. Delegation

      • Team lead identification is the most significant aspect of the initial delegation process. Put in charge workers irrespective of their job titles; in this instance you need natural leaders who share your visions for the project and the ambition to see it done right. Many a manager fails here because she pays more attention to office politics, seniority, personnel dynamics and perhaps also management favoritism. Make a mistake and the project may be hampered, slowed down or doomed to failure before it even gets started all the way.
      • Communication path development is next. Never rely on verbal communication. All project-related directions, suggestions, advice and changes need to be disseminated in writing. Even telephone conversations need to be memorialized with written follow-ups. It is a good idea to establish a protocol that highlights who the go-to person will be for technical questions, who will be in charge of requisitions and also who will handle personnel-related issues. A copy of all communications must be sent to the project manager, no matter which aspect of the project they discuss.
      • Task breakdowns and the physical handing off of the responsibility are intrinsically interwoven. Individual team leads receive their portion of the project. With it comes the responsibility of doing the work and the authority to do what it takes to complete the tasks. This is another area where project managers occasionally err: With the hand-off of responsibility must come the delegation of authority. Micromanagement is a huge problem in projects, and the wise project lead will avoid falling into this trap.

      2. Monitoring

        It is up to the project manager to define appropriate benchmarks for the project. Integrate them into a timeline or make them part and parcel of visible project completion steps. Whenever possible, monitor the benchmarks rather than the team leads or teams. The project manager should only take more of a hands-on role in the delegation process if teams reach benchmarks impossibly early -- check for workmanship or missed steps -- or fail to meet them on time.

        3. Follow-up and follow-through

          Respond to status updates and also benchmark-prompted issues as they arise. Follow up on any of the communications to ensure that team leads adjust the processes to ensure timeliness and schedule- as well as budget adherence. At this juncture, the project manager must not be afraid to follow through and remove team leads or adjust team responsibilities to protect the project as a whole.

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          Committing to the Process

          To make the diagram of delegating cycle details work for a business, the project manager must be committed to the entire process, not just bits and pieces of it. For example, delegating tasks will not work if the manager is unwilling to let go of authority in addition to responsibility. Other attributes that ensure success -- and which can be learned by project managers who may be weak in one or more of these disciplines -- include:

          • Recognizing the difference between delegating one or more tasks and dumping the entire workload onto an employee or team.
          • Knowing how to give instructions that are clear, concise and useful.
          • Understanding coaching styles and using them appropriately to build up team leads and employees.

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